Saudi Design Week: Introducing the concept of sustainable creativity

Albara Saimaldahar, an architect, is very excited about the rapid development of the art and culture scene in the Kingdom. (AN photo)
Updated 07 October 2018

Saudi Design Week: Introducing the concept of sustainable creativity

  • Albara Saimaldahar, an architect, is very excited about the rapid development of the art and culture scene in the country
  • Saimaldahar holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Manchester, UK

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is undergoing a rapid transformation in all spheres of life. The government is working relentlessly to create opportunities for young local talent in all sectors and the Saudi youths are wasting no time to prove their mettle.

Albara Saimaldahar, an architect, is also very excited about the rapid development of the art and culture scene in the Kingdom. “I am happy to see events like Saudi Design Week in Riyadh and Tasmeem in Jeddah.”

Saimaldahar believes such events provide people with an opportunity to know more about art and culture and gives the local talent the chance to showcase their work and interact with the industry’s movers and shakers.

He has been interested in architecture since childhood. “My parents were very supportive and encouraged me in my creative pursuits as a child.”

Recalling his childhood, he said they had a small backyard in their Jeddah home. “I asked my mother to build a room in the backyard for me.” He designed the structure and showed the plan to his parents who not only approved it without hesitation but they also financed it.  It was a 2m x 2m cube with two windows and a door. It proved to be his first-ever design and since then his love for architecture has only increased with time. He loves working with wood.

Saimaldahar holds a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Manchester, UK. He started his career as an architect at a London-based firm, Skidmore Owings & Merrill LLP. After two years, he returned to Jeddah and worked on a number of projects. He has also worked as a product development manager at the Binladin Woodwork Factory. 

After working on several projects, he thought of starting his own business. His ideas materialized in the form of Dahr Design Studio.

He came up with a novel idea to work with wood. It is called “one for one.” “For each product we sold, we planted a tree,” he said.

A few weeks ago, Saimaldahar attended a workshop in London organized by the British Council and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The two-week event focused on the Gulf region and was held at the 2018 London Design Festival and London Design Biennale. The event provided the participants with an opportunity to interact with creative professionals and designers from across the globe. 

The Saudi architect said 12 designers attended the workshop. He said that they shared their experiences and the difficulties they faced in their creative pursuits. “We are continuously learning from other civilizations and from other countries.” 

There are many issues that we face like intellectual property rights and how to approach galleries, he said.

“We met people within the industry (at the event) like gallery owners and consultants. We visited a number of exhibition and designer studios to see them at work, ask them questions and spend the day with them.” 

Saimaldahar loves working with wood. He loves its beauty and ageless appeal. The talented man is also engaged in architecture projects.

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

Updated 20 July 2019

Saudis recall history’s greatest TV event: Apollo moon landing

  • The TV images beamed from 320,000km away in space left viewers astounded but happy
  • The TV coverage influenced thinking and attitudes in the Kingdom just like everywhere else

DUBAI: It was a sleepy afternoon in Saudi Arabia, just days before the end of the school vacation, and Saudis had their eyes glued to their TV sets as they waited for live coverage of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Before July 20, 1969, the idea of a human walking on the moon was the stuff of science fiction. However, almost overnight, sci-fi had turned into reality with a live broadcast showing American astronaut Neil Armstrong’s dramatic descent onto the empty lunar landscape.

Between science fiction and science fact, the live coverage of the lunar landing amounted to an unusual fusion of news and entertainment.

Saudi TV technicians bring the first live images of Neil Armstrong’s 1969 moon landing to
viewers around the Kingdom. (Supplied photo)

The historic images — beamed back to Earth more than 320,000 km away — left Saudi viewers astounded and confused, but mostly elated to be witnessing such an epoch-making event.

The event was covered live on television and radio stations in Saudi Arabia. Most Saudis and residents living in the Kingdom watched it on Saudi channels 1 and 3, owned by Saudi Aramco.

Hessah Al-Sobaie, a housewife from Al-Dawadmi, recalled watching the moon landing from her grandparents’ backyard as an 11-year-old.

“It felt weird watching a human walk on the moon,” she told Arab News. “I remember the endless questions I asked as a child.”

While most people were aware that going to the moon was risky, many Saudis believed that such a journey was impossible and all but unthinkable.


1. NASA’s Apollo 11 mission control room in Houston has been restored to its 1969 condition and regular tours
will be conducted by the Johnson Space Center.

2. NASA ‘Science Live’ will have a special edition on July 23 on board the aircraft carrier that recovered the Apollo 11 capsule.

3. A summer moon festival and family street fair will be held in Wapakoneta, Ohio, from July 17-20.

4. Downtown Houston’s Discovery green will host a free public screening of the ‘Apollo 11’ documentary, with an appearance by NASA astronaut Steve Bowen.

5. Amateur radio operators will host a series of events on July 20-21.

6. The US Space and Rocket Center is staging a special ‘Rockets on Parade’ exhibition.

The Apollo 11 mission prompted discussions across the Middle East over the reality of what people saw on their TV screens. Some Saudi scholars found it hard to believe their eyes.

“I watched it, and I clearly remember each and every detail of the coverage,” Hayat Al-Bokhari, 68, a retired school principal in Jeddah, said.

“My father, Abdul, was 56 at the time. He said the landing was faked. He couldn’t believe or accept that a human could go to the moon.”

Khaled Almasud, 70, a retired university lecturer, was a student in the US state of Oregon at the time of the mission. “Americans were stunned and over the moon, happy with their national achievement. But many Saudis like me were either in denial or insisting on more proof.”

Since the beginning of the 1960s, King Faisal had been rapidly transforming Saudi Arabia, inviting foreign-trained experts to help build a modern country with world-class infrastructure.

Billie Tanner, now 90, lived in the Kingdom for many years with her husband, Larry, and their two children, Laurie and Scott, aged six and four. The family had just arrived in Saudi Arabia and headed to the Aramco compound in Ras Tanura in the Eastern Province.

A screengrab of video of the first lunar landing beamed toward Earth and shown on television worldwide. 

“We were going through a culture shock,” she told Arab News. “I wasn’t thinking of the moon landing, but we heard about it on the news from Dhahran.

“My kids tried to see the astronauts on the moon with their binoculars and said they could see them walking around.”

The Apollo 11 spaceflight has become a milestone in the annals of human history and science. Since 1969 space exploration has greatly expanded man’s knowledge of the universe, far beyond Earth’s limits.

The captivating live coverage of the moon landing inspired millions of people around the world, profoundly influencing their thinking and attitudes.

The people of Saudi Arabia were no exception.